Is the New WhatsApp Pay a Threat to Safaricom’s Mpesa?

When Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the new WhatsApp Payment Service, the world paid attention.

WhatsApp has 500 daily active users (DAU), which makes explains the interest in the new payment service.  Further statistics show that 2 billion people across 180 countries use WhatsApp every month.

Imagine the number of transactions Facebook is targeting with WhatsApp Pay. Most of the users are in emerging markets.

India has the largest number of users (200 million) followed by Brazil (120 million). Facebook intends to roll out the service in Brazil and then expand to other major markets including India, Mexico, and Indonesia.

How does WhatsApp Pay Work?

Facebook is exploring the simplest method of transferring cash to another WhatsApp user. In fact, the tagline for the service is “Send money on WhatsApp just like photos”

Users will need to link the service to their MasterCard or Visa debit or credit card.

Facebook rolled out WhatsApp Business to enable business owners to post their products and link to their e-commerce or online stores.

WhatsApp Pay comes in to complete the loop by allowing customers to pay for products directly from their WhatsApp account.

Imagine a scenario where you can shop and pay for products directly on WhatsApp without integrating any other payment method.

Further, WhatsApp Pay integrates seamlessly with all other social platforms that Facebook owns.  It will integrate with Instagram, Facebook, Facebook Shops, and Messenger.

Potential Performance in the Kenyan Market

WhatsApp is popular among the youth in Kenya despite the presence of other competitive social media platforms.

A survey in 2019 indicated the 87% of Kenyan youth between 16 and 45 years used WhatsApp daily.

Add the popularity of Facebook-owned social platforms and you will see the potential boom of WhatsApp Pay in Kenya.

Kenyans pay for goods and services in cash. Mobile payment services have been cashing in on the preference for cash payments.

A survey by Financial Sector Deepening in 2019 indicated that 90% of all transactions in Kenya were cash-based.

The big question is, can WhatsApp Pay outdo Mpesa?

WhatsApp Pay versus Mpesa

Look through the window and you will see an Mpesa signage or a shop painted green. In fact, our towns are saturated with Mpesa kiosks.

Airtel Money has been trying to match up the service but Kenyans have proved loyal to Mpesa despite the disparity in charges.

Even with occasional increases in charges, Mpesa is still growing within and across borders.

Mpesa transactions in Kenya are estimated at 40 Billion US Dollars every year.

Safaricom works tirelessly to expand the Mpesa network, which overtook its core business of telecom services.

In addition to expanding to other East African countries, Mpesa has partnered with banks and SACCOs to facilitate easy and quick bank transfers.

Other services that have strengthened Mpesa’s reach include Fuliza, KCB-Mpesa, and M-Shwari.

The reliance on users’ bank accounts is a major drawback for WhatsApp Pay in Kenya. Most of the major banks in the country have binding partnerships with Mpesa.

Hence, the integration with a competing payment service may suffer rejection.

Banks are known to be slow to adopt change, especially where their clients’ data security is involved.

Facebook has been trying since 2018 to introduce WhatsApp Pay in India with no success.  The regulators feel like the global giant is invading the emerging market.

The Kenyan banking sector is likely to respond in the same manner given the duration it took to integrate Mpesa to customer bank accounts.

Read Also: WhatsApp Has Introduced A Fingerprint Lock Feature

The opportunity for WhatsApp Pay

Despite the supremacy of Mpesa in the Kenyan market, the newbie payment service may still have an opportunity.

The e-commerce space has been expanding rapidly in the country. Business owners are doing everything possible to increase their online presence and business.

The Covid-19 crisis has increased the speed of adopting digital technologies in the Kenyan market.

Technology has proved a key element in reaching clients in a time when free movement across counties is restricted.

The banks may be reluctant to change but the young generation of customers is open to new digital solutions.

The popularity of loan apps in Kenya is a clear indication that the youth need an alternative way to access quick loans.

The push from entrepreneurs who see the opportunity on social media and WhatsApp Business may force banks to adopt WhatsApp Pay.

Facebook is likely to explore other ways of funds transfer other than relying on the user’s bank account. For instance, PayPal is still a reliable payment method.

Kenyans have also been exploring like Chipper Cash, which allows mobile money transfers across borders at no cost.

International banks might also step in and fill the gap that local banks create if they delay in integrating WhatsApp Pay.

In addition, should Facebook offer a better deal than Safaricom, banks will open up to the digital solution.

The Threat of Cloud-Based Solutions

Both Mpesa and WhatsApp Pay are currently SIM-card based. Users cannot register and transact without a valid SIM card.

With the rapid growth of fintech in our day, another giant can emerge with a cloud-based solution.

Millions of users may be open to a cloud-based money transfer that does not necessarily require them to own a SIM card.

Consider the large number of teenagers on social media that cannot legally own a SIM Card of bank accounts.

SIM cards also restrict some online businesses from maximising mobile payments. A cloud-based solution can easily expand as long as customers have a considerable guarantee of safety and reliability.

Final Thoughts

Safaricom is a local giant in both telecom services and mobile money transfers. However, in the global scene, the company has miles to go to become a force. Digital innovations will continue in the current business environment.

Many companies have realised how much they can do without many of their employees. The alternative is digital technology. The push to launch WhatsApp Pay is an indication of the direction that businesses are likely to take in the near future.

Kenyans are loyal to Mpesa and its 35 million-customer base is impressive. However, the younger generation may be open to new payment systems that integrate across all social media platforms. The technical strength and popularity of Facebook Inc cannot be overlooked as well.

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Whatsapp Has Introduced a Fingerprint Lock Feature for Android Phones


WhatsApp has become one of the easiest and fastest ways to communicate. However, if you share confidential information on the app, you need to be keen about your device’s security.

Anyone who masters your lock pattern or PIN can easily read your messages and misuse the information therein.

Sometimes you just forget to lock your device when the automatic lock is deactivated.

You can now keep your WhatsApp messages private with the new security feature. The upgrade enables you to secure your messages with your fingerprint.

Your fingerprint is unique and perhaps the safest way to secure your phone data.

WhatsApp is not testing the biometric authentication for the first time. The feature was first tested with iPhones in February (2019).

iPhone users have been enjoying both the fingerprint lock and facial recognition safety measures.

How to activate the fingerprint lock feature

For Android phone users, the fingerprint lock/unlock is now accessible via the WhatsApp settings.

You must activate the feature to enjoy the upgraded privacy. Here is the process:

1. Open WhatsApp (You may need to install or upgrade the app it in a new Android device)

2. Open the app’s Settings

3. Click on Account

4. Select Privacy

5. Select the Fingerprint lock option

You will need to confirm your fingerprint when you select this option. In addition, you can select the duration within which the app will automatically lock.

For instance, you can choose to activate the automatic fingerprint lock immediately after closing the app. You can also choose a longer duration like a minute or half an hour.

It all depends on how often you use the app or your current chat sessions.

If you cannot trust your friends or colleagues, it is safer to activate the automatic fingerprint lock immediately after closing the app.

Additional feature

Another security measure that comes with the fingerprint lock is the ability to control the content of WhatsApp notifications.

Most devices give a preview of a new message including the sender’s identity.

Sometimes the preview is the full message from the sender. Your friends can view the message even without unlocking your device or opening the app.

With the upgraded privacy, you can control the content of the notifications that the app gives.

The new security features were tested in Android beta in August and will soon be available on all Android platforms.

Pegasus

The new privacy feature has come at a time when the world is concerned about spyware that targeted WhatsApp users in India.

Pegasus spyware is NSO technology that extracts private data without the knowledge of phone users.

The politics that surround the Indian election are deemed to have prompted the Israeli firm to launch Pegasus in India.

The spyware sends WhatsApp users a link. If you click on it, Pegasus is automatically installed on your device.

You will view the information on the link without realising the security breach beneath the link.

Once the spyware is installed, it extracts data on your device. The developers are interested in your events, contacts, messages, passwords and call log.

Pegasus developers have managed to introduce the spyware to more than 45 countries. India has faced the security breach for the second time.

NSO claims that it developed the spyware three years ago to sell to governments. However, there are concerns that the technology has been misused.

In the case of India, questions arise on the authority to use the spyware to extract data from activists, journalists, and lawyers in an election year.

As a WhatsApp user, you need to be careful with the links you open on the app.

The titles of the links and videos we receive on WhatsApp are irresistible. However, clicking on the links could be the doorway to malware into your device.

Concerns about Cyber Crimes

While Pegasus is no secret to governments, the greatest concern is if the operators have licensed criminals to use the technology.

The same concerns arise about WhatsApp privacy settings.

The current encryption technology ensures that only the two people chatting on the app can read or access the conversation.

The system works for users but not for the police trying to track and stop crimes in time.

It is impossible for law administrators to read encrypted messages on the platform. This means that criminals can communicate on WhatsApp and plan crimes that the police cannot decode.

The new security feature makes it even harder for security forces to track and stop cyber crimes.

Unless the criminal is caught, reading messages on the criminal’s phone will be impossible.

To some security experts, communication platforms like WhatsApp are easy places for criminals to hide and talk.

However, the security concerns do not eliminate that need for app developers to provide the best security measures to users.

While the information shared on social platforms may be inaccessible to strangers, the operators can access the data from their servers.

The police can request for records of chats for specific numbers when investigating a crime.

Final Thoughts

App developers in Kenya and elsewhere around the world care about the data security of their users. Developers will go out of their way to outsmart cybercriminals with new security features. Facebook-owned WhatsApp has given users a new layer of data security. It is up to the users to activate the settings.

The same applies to malware links that cybercriminals send to app users. You can reduce cyber-attacks significantly by ignoring suspicious links on all social platforms on your device.

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